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Reviewing jail on Yelp

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 09, 2015

An emerging genre:

“When I would shower, I would take my clothes and wash them, people thought it was funny, but it was really a way for me not to get my own clothes robbed being there was no jump suits,” [Jason A.] wrote in a 1-star review of Rikers. “Food tasted like wet noodles and grill gristle…. I later learned to get a muslim halal card, and a jewish card, and know the kitchen staff to see which card would get me a better meal for the day.”…

In reviewing the Wayne County Jail, Athena Kolbe, a Detroit social worker, says her aim was twofold: first, she wanted potential visitors to “be prepared for it mentally when you go into it.” Second, “when you come out of it, know that all that disrespect you experienced, everybody else is also experiencing that. It’s not just you.”

This is what you need to know might be the best feature of any good review, and is arguably most essential when you don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Not just jails, but hospitals, homeless shelters, emergency psychiatric services — there is a fair amount of official information, and there has always been informal word-of-mouth, but not many opportunities to get frank advice or to tell your story. Not much to make the experience anything but lonely and terrifying.